Sometimes I get lost in how to write an update when there's no particular news. Good or bad. Like I need a hook. Like I think you need a hook. But sometimes it's just not that way.
It's Sunday, 19 August. No spectacular news. No particular news. No news.
There's a certain sameness to the days. Do you wonder what that looks like?
We should start in the middle.
Abi is awake. She'd rather sleep, but her body betrays her. She needs rest. Her body refuses.
Abi sends a text. Looking for someone to come and rub her back. Sometimes a back rub distracts her body just enough that she can sneak through the crack in the door. And sleep for an hour or two. Sometimes.
She takes a long, hot bath. She lies in her bed reading Facebook or trading snaps with Kylie or reading Instagram stories. Seeing what the universe has to say. (The universe is getting up earlier these days.)
She reviews new listings in Charlottesville, and on those days, I wake to find all the new properties she's saved on Zillow.
Those are good mornings because I know that she's holding on to that dream with all her might. Those are terrible mornings because I know she hasn't slept.
The sun rises. We begin to wake up. Abi hasn't given up. Her nighttime routine bleeds into morning. More baths. More back rubs. More oxycodone or acetaminophen or zophran or dronabinol.
Mercifully, her body relents, and she falls asleep again.
She has radiation at 8:50. Someone has to wake her. She puts on make up. She puts a blanket into her bag. We drive to the clinic.
Radiation lasts for just a few minutes.
When she's done, we walk next door where she has standing orders for IV fluids and anti-nausea drugs. She smiles for literally every single person she sees. For the people she's never met. For the ladies at the front counter. For Olander and Nila and Gaggan. For the patient she met two months ago in the treatment room who's ringing the bell today. Especially for the patient who's ringing the bell today.
Abi rang the bell once. In December. When she completed radiation the first time. She rang the radiation bell right before heading next door for chemo.
The fluids take about an hour. She prefers to go upstairs where there are fewer people and it takes less time to get hooked up. But they don't have a blanket warmer upstairs. The fluid is at room temperature. Abi gets so cold. She's always cold. Her body has betrayed her yet again. Denies her warmth.
Usually, we stay on the first floor. She'll burn through two or three hot blankets in an hour. Maybe she'll sleep.
We ride home without talking. Her voice betrayed her about two months ago. It's breathy. It frustrates her that I can't hear her. It gets worse when she tries to talk louder. I've learned to interpret her hand gestures and eye rolls, but she sits quietly in the passenger seat. Eyes closed.
Abi makes herself something to eat when we get home. She refuses assistance when asked. She sings a little bit, and I can barely make it out.
Do you know what that mean, man?
Last week, she wanted to stop at Food Lion so she could make biscuits and gravy. The next day, it was a single slice of toast, and she at half of that. Today, she takes an Ensure out of the freezer, which she eats with a spoon. Again - about half.
Thirty minutes later, it's her important pills.
She's in yellow, fighting hard to stay there. Another betrayal. Her body refuses food. Usually she can keep herself in yellow with the force of her will. Today she does.
The afternoon looks a lot like the early, early morning. If she's feeling well, Abi might write a letter. Bounce some Two Founders ideas off of me.
She sends a note to Reidar to get an update on the property she was pretty sure was the one. It wasn't.
Another hot bath.
She puts on Real Housewives. I'm sitting with her, so its it's RHONY.
One time Abi was feeling really ill, and I sat beside her for an entire episode. I had always low-key mocked Abi for watching Real Housewives at all, but that day I was drawn to Carole, who seemed so disinterested in the drama, which somehow made the whole show more bearable - and if I'm completely honest - a little bit interesting. (Someone told it's because I saw an episode of Carole's first season, and she later got just as interested in the drama as everyone else - the people whose names I don't remember. Is that right? I hope not.)
Afternoon falls into evening. John comes home. Abi and he sit on the couch together until dinner. There's an Amazon package with John's name on it, but it's not for John. Rarely is. Today it's a full length bath pillow because Abi couldn't get comfortable in the tub a couple of days earlier. Last time, it was an electric back massager so she won't have to suffer through the pain when everyone's sleeping and she refuses to wake someone. Once it was a massage/heating cushion for a drive to Charlottesville.
She eats a little dinner. Maybe. She's not hungry. She's never hungry. But she knows better than to take the oxy or the important pills on an empty stomach. It takes her straight to red.
It occurs to me that this is the woman who dragged me around Columbus for the first twelve miles of the 2014 half-marathon (I got my revenge in the last mile.)
In 2014, imposing her will on her body meant pushing through when her legs didn't feel like going another mile on a training run.
In 2018, imposing her will means sleeping. It means staying warm. It means staying hydrated. It means eating and keeping the food down.
This seems much harder. The stakes are much higher.
After dinner, she chats some more with John or maybe Kylie. She reads the letters or cards that came in that day, so often from Caroline who just keeps writing the best notes. Has a cup of chamomile tea that John bought for her last month when she dropped an off-handed comment that maybe she'd like to try tea, after John had been suggesting it for months.
John did all the research. He found a teapot that told you when the water was at precisely the right temperature for any type of tea. He got chamomile and ginger and mint and basil teas because he found the article that said they might help his wife.
She loves it.
He never mails it in. John always goes the extra mile for Abi. And never a single, "I told you so."
She sits quietly on the couch. Heads in for another bath. Child Pose by the fireplace, and maybe another back rub.
Still fighting her body's betrayal. Always fighting it.
She goes to bed.
I resist these types of entries. I want people to share my belief that something good can come of something so heartless and impersonal and unrelenting as high grade, stage IV neuroendocrine cancer.
I want someone who once doubted to read these stories and to dare to do something they knew they could not. To find the courage to try to overcome the limits their bodies.
To clean out the closet and find that perfect thing they hid there years ago. The thing about themselves they couldn't trust. To put it on and go walking through the city on the first warm day of Spring. When everyone is out.
Somehow to believe that they're enough. To love themselves more than they dreamed possible. To forgive themselves. To find real joy.
But sometimes, it's just Ensure from the freezer.
Maybe sometimes that's enough.